Ive always had a problem with clutter.  I have never been a clean person, and while my pack-rat tendencies have been greatly reduced as I have gotten older, I still feel like, despite how often I do a home overhaul (in the form of throwing away papers, magazines, donate or sell books and clothes, but primarily just throwing things away that have no use), I still feel like I have too much stuff.
Now there’s a chance I’m being too hard on myself.  The last 4 years have seen me living in some small, one room spaces (either staying in a spare room in someone’s house, or a larger studio apartment, though still just one room), and its hard to not look like you have a TON of stuff in that situation.  When I lived in a large one bedroom, I had an obscene amount of possessions, that were in fact, just “stuff”.  Every time I would see my parents, they would send me home with some more old things of mine that they came across while cleaning out a closet, garage, etc.  I would look through it, maybe take out one or two things that interested me, and then promptly stick it in one of the many closet/storage spaces I had in the apt.  It wasn’t until I was moving out, and into a room at my mother’s in 2008, that I realized just how much stuff I had accrued.  I literally took an entirely full carload of stuff to Goodwill during that move.

Living with my mother, most of my stuff was in storage (kitchenware, books, home decor, furniture, etc), so I was living pretty minimally.  After I moved out, I was able to get rid of even more stuff because, as you know, forgetting you have things is sometimes the easiest way to decide what is worth keeping, etc.
After that, I got into the habit of doing a monthly cleaning house of my small one room back-house.  Which might have been excessive, but I was always bringing new things home from garage sales and art stores.  Used books, some odd fabric I thought I could “use for something”, etc.  During my more stressful times, it was the most cathartic thing in my life, making me feel like I had control over something.

I subscribe to so many rss feeds on Google Reader about organization, ways to streamline your life , body and mind.  One of the blogs is actually named Unclutterer.  But I noticed that every time I would read people’s queries, it was mostly how they wanted to hold onto things for sentimental reasons.  And while, initially, that was absolutely what prompted me to hold onto things (something being a gift that I would never use, but from a well-meaning, if albeit clueless family member or friend.  Clothes that I would never wear, but represented something to me.  A million drawings, scraps of paper, half written notes to myself that I couldn’t bear to put in the garbage.  Over time, I became much less sentimental about those things, only saving the greeting cards that had a special message in them, as opposed to the ones that just had “Love, Grandma” or etc in them. Looking through the mounds of newspaper and magazine clippings and seeing what really seemed relevant to my interests NOW.

But instead, my clutter seems to stem not from thinking about the past, but thinking about the future.  Keeping things in case I might need them is one thing, and also things that would be hard to come by later on, perhaps…these are the things I grab hold of tight, and rarely want to let go.  And it isn’t just physical clutter, it’s digital clutter as well.  If you were to look at my browser on my home computer, you would see at least a couple hundred bookmarks saved.  Some are in the properly categorized folders (Recipes, Local Exploring, Articles, Art Techniques, Technology), and a lot aren’t.  If you were to look at my Google Reader “Starred Items” page, you would see another few hundred items that I want to come to later, and rarely do.  But I like knowing its there.

So is this a packrat tendency, or a fear of missing out issue?  Even if I never look at that article again until maybe 6 months later, I like knowing that it’s there.  I will feel much more comfortable saving that article along with the zillion others, than going “Eh, when am I gonna paint a mural” and decide that I don’t need to save it right at this moment.   I have at least a hundred recipes saved that I would love to make…and I think I have actually prepared 5 or less from the ones saved on my computer.

Billy says I try to do too much.  Clearly, if you know, you will know that I don’t really do THAT much.  At least not recently.  But I try to.  I have this insatiable urge to learn everything, to have any type of knowledge or info i find interesting at my disposal at any given moment.  I tell him that I am never going to want to stop learning, to stop gaining skills and knowledge and DOING things.  But while that desire is all well and good…how often do I realistically DO those things?

I know that the easy answer is to scale down, try to focus on one or two things at a time…and maybe that is something I can do when life pushes me in one of those directions.  But since my resources for cooking that fabulous meal ($$ for ingredients and possibly other kitchen tools I don’t own), painting that art piece (desired skill level and materials, as well as focus and inspiration), learning graphic and/or web design (the stable enough schedule to learn as well as the focus), etc. are limited…the best I can do is grab a bit from column A, a bit from column B, and try to do things here and there that make me feel productive, make me feel like I’m moving forward in some fashion.

And maybe that’s why I save those instructional books and websites, constantly add to my list of books to read on typography and different art mediums, save those photos on pinterest, bookmark those articles on running…it’s optimism.  That one day I will be ready to jump in and utilize these tools that are so readily at my disposal.  By keeping them nearby, it helps keep me hopeful that one day soon I’ll be able to really use them.

~ by Alli on Monday, October 3, 2011.

One Response to “Clutter”

  1. I see I am not alone…. and digital clutter bothers me because it really doesn’t take up much space, but I know if I tried to find the link again, I wouldn’t be able to, I keep it.

    enjoyed your post.

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